Group of Seven – icons in Canadian art November 2, 2018
Tom Thomson and the painters known as The Group of Seven went into the wilds as voyageurs, carrying their canvas and paints, to discover and reveal their own ideas for Canadian art.
They met while working as commercial artists at various Toronto printing firms. They specialized in graphic design for advertisements. On weekends taking trips together, painting scenes around the city and discussing art. In the summer of 1912, after visiting Huntsville and Muskoka, Ontario Tom Thomson went to Algonquin Park to paint. When returned, his friends were inspired by the work he created and they started to join his annual summer sketching trips to the park. They would spend a few weeks inside the park canoeing, portaging and painting the scenery as well.
The birth of abstract
In the early 20th century, painting outside the accepted realm of realism was critically rejected and shunned by most art dealers in Canada. They painters set out to stretch the limitations and restrictions facing Canadian artists. Their works and ideas sparked debates about a new art form – discussions that would last twenty years.
Death of Tom Thomson
Some were hired by the Canadian War Records Department to paint the actions of the Canadian troops in Europe. Thomson, being ineligible to go into military service, spent that summer in Algonquin Park. He had been a ranger, firefighter, and guide, but found that these interfered with his ability to produce paint. Thomson intended to paint one painting every day that year to document the changing of the seasons. He drowned unexpectedly in Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, on July 8th, 1917. Before he could complete his challenge. Devastating his companions. They felt that a great light had extinguished in the world of art with his passing.
After WWI they formed a collective called the Group of Seven. Putting up a united front to the adverse reactions to their work. Their first show was in 1920 and included some of Thomsonʼs canvases. The Group then spread out, painting all corners of Canada and uniting the nation through art. With the passing of J.E.H. MacDonald in 1932, the Group disbanded. Leaving an indelible mark on the Canadian psyche.
Inspiring generations of young artists to experience the wilderness for themselves and to express themselves freely.